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VGH recognized as North American leader in advanced life support


From left to right: VCH physiotherapist Rys Chapple, Nick Kanaan, ECMO patient, Dr. Hussein Kanji, VCH

Vancouver, BC – Nick Kanaan knows the medical system better than most people. He lost two siblings to cystic fibrosis at a young age and the disease nearly cost him his life. Thanks to innovative technology and a dedicated team of health care professionals at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH), Nick is breathing normally and chasing his young daughter around the playground.

Vancouver General Hospital is the first Canadian hospital to achieve "gold level status" from the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization for its ECMO program. VGH recently received the prestigious award at the ESLO's annual meeting in Austin, Texas.

"This recognition is a testament to the excellent health-care-professionals at Vancouver General Hospital who bring teamwork and technology together to care for the most critically ill people in our province," says Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. "As we can see with survivor Nick Kanaan, this technology is a lifeline for those with serious, life-altering conditions."

To date, more than 130 patients have benefitted from ECMO at VGH. Many of them – like Nick – needed ECMO to survive until suitable organs came available. 

"ECMO is game-changing," says Dr. Hussein Kanji, intensivist and co-director of the ECMO program at VGH. "But it's the expertise of our entire team that enables us to provide this gold standard of care. 10-years ago, we couldn't keep people alive long enoughto receive a transplant; now patients like Nick are on ECMO for extended periods, increasing their chances of survival." 

"Our team is deeply committed to providing exceptional patient care and it shows in the way they continuously strive for better results by embracing technology and innovating care delivery," says Mary Ackenhusen, president and CEO, Vancouver Coastal Health.

The ECMO program at VGH is supported by generous donors to VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation. "This is one example of philanthropy providing our world-class medical teams with the equipment they need so all British Columbians benefit from advancements in health care," says Barbara Grantham, President & CEO, VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation.

About ECMO

  • VGH has nine ECMO machines.
  • There are two types of ECMO at VGH
    • VA ECMO is connected to both a vein and an artery. It is used for patients with heart and lung problems.
    • VV ECMO is connected to one or more veins, usually near the heart, and is used primarily for patients with lung problems.  
  • The ECMO team includes doctors, nurses, perfusionists, respiratory therapists, physiotherapists, pharmacists, ECLS specialist, and dietitians. 

Vancouver Coastal Health is responsible for the delivery of $3.3 billion in community, hospital and long term care to more than one million people in communities including Richmond, Vancouver, the North Shore, Sunshine Coast, Sea to Sky corridor, Powell River, Bella Bella and Bella Coola. VCH provides specialized care and services for people throughout BC, and is the province's hub of health-care education and research.


Carrie Stefanson
Public Affairs Leader
Vancouver Coastal Health
Office: 604.708.5340
Cell: 604.312.1148

SOURCE: VGH recognized as North American leader in advanced life support ( )
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